Seven thousand, eight thousand, almost nine thousand tours – someone wants to take the chance and grab the leading role before the others have even entered the stage. While Porsche 911 Carrera S and Corvette C8 Stingray are delivered directly by their manufacturers to the Hockenheimring for the ultimate triathlon, we travel to the Baden area with the Audi R8 V10 RWD on the road. Let’s go with high-revving up to 8,700 revs.
Bundesautobahn 6 shortly before Sinsheim – the three-way battle begins as a one-man show with the R8 V10 RWD. And the way the V10 naturally aspirated engine hero with his roots in the Audi plant in Neckarsulm, just a stone’s throw away, is really heart-rending. We have to enjoy such a magnificent engine as long as such a thing still exists. Suction engines have become rare in the skies of sports cars, ten-cylinder engines even rarer.
Six, eight and ten cylinders
When the spontaneously appealing and greedily revving 5.2-liter with its metallic high-rev sound opens the gate to the 540 horses, the left highway lane is briefly confused with Döttinger Höhe, Hunaudières or Kemmel Straight. Only a few production engines transport motor sport sound into everyday life as convincingly as the R8. And anyway: Not many sports cars sound as emotional as this, despite the gasoline particulate filter.
The R8’s first impression, however, is shaped not only by its V10 voice, but also by its unagitated straight-ahead running at high speeds of around 300 km/h. The mid-engined sports car is just as relaxed and stable in lane, even when cornering on the freeway. Neither the chassis nor the steering will cause any unrest or even hectic rush. In short, the R8 V10 RWD makes a very confident appearance in everyday driving – not least thanks to its large fuel tank volume of 83 liters, which guarantees astonishing ranges.
Arrival Hockenheim, Porsche and Corvette are already waiting. We have to do without the everyday impression of the 911 Carrera S and Corvette Stingray today, as both test cars have been delivered and will be taken away again directly after the race track test.
It was not easy to gather the trio at all. The respect at Porsche and also at Audi for the new Corvette was unmistakable in the phone calls with the press departments during the test car inquiries. No wonder, the first mid-engine series of the C8 is still an unknown quantity. The Corvette managers here in Europe agreed to the comparison test without much inquiring – as always. No matter how strong the competition is, a comparison test is never shied away from. Thanks for this fair attitude.
The protocol of the test day starts at 6 a.m. with the photo production and the obligatory weighing of the test subjects. The rules of the game are the same for everyone: The only way to get on the scale is with a full tank. The result is surprising. We had expected that all three athletes were not really easy. However, it is surprising that the Corvette, at 1,665 kilos, is heavier than the Audi R8 V10 RWD (1,649 kilos) and the Porsche 911 Carrera S (1,574 kilos).
By eliminating the cardan shaft, multi-disc clutch and front axle differential, the weight is expected to be 65 kilos lower than that of the comparable R8 all-wheel-drive version. At 1,649 kilos, the RWD thus ranks in the midfield of candidates.
A quick look into the archive: sport auto 12/2013 – at that time with the first comparative test of the Corvette Stingray of the C7 predecessor series. Weight? 1,577 kilos. An increase in weight of 88 kilos from the front-middle-engine C7 basic model to the C8 mid-engine debut – it’s hard to swallow at first, even though the C7 test car was a manual switch back then. By the way, the C8 is only available with a dual-clutch transmission, which explains at least part of the pounds.
But it’s not as if only the Corvette had fat pads, this trend has also been observed at Porsche for quite some time. The 911 Carrera S of the 991.1 generation from the aforementioned comparison test 12/2013 weighed 1,507 kilos. That makes an additional weight of 67 kilograms for the 992 Carrera S, which stands before us today.
And what about the Audi R8 V10 RWD? By the way, the abbreviation RWD stands for “Rear Wheel Drive”. By eliminating the cardan shaft, multi-disc clutch and front axle differential, the weight is expected to be 65 kilos less than the comparable R8 all-wheel drive version.
Lighter does not mean the same weight – the RWD weighs 1,649 kilos. For comparison: the R8 V10 with four-wheel drive weighed 1,669 kilos (Test sport auto 4/2016) – although this was a model before the facelift of the current R8 series with the internal designation 4S.
Rear-wheel drive instead of classic four-wheel drive on the R8? That’s right, not so long ago, the R8 V10 RWS (RWS: abbreviation for “Rear Wheel Series”), a special model limited to 999 units, was already available. The RWD now comes off the production line in unlimited numbers. The RWS was tested in sport auto 6/2018. Weight at that time? 1,611 kilos. The RWS was presented before the 4S-Facelift, the RWD after – so the weight tendency is slightly upwards.
Further in the test protocol: 9 o’clock, pit light on green. The driving dynamics measurements start today with the lap times on the GP circuit. Later, the thermometer will climb to 30 degrees (air) and 51 degrees (asphalt) at the top. The Corvette Stingray gets a small novice bonus and is allowed to be the first on the track. The ambient air is already not really cool anymore: Shortly after 9 o’clock we already measure 25 degrees, while the sun mercilessly burns down on the track.
Corvette: terrific traction!
Thanks to the level of grip and driving stability, Corvette keeps up with Porsche’s cornering speed even in the fast corners!
Into the cockpit. The competition sport seats in the Corvette C8 could be mounted a touch lower, but nevertheless, even tall people with racing helmets fit well. Seating comfort and ergonomics have improved noticeably from the C7 to the C8 generation. The topic of seating position is a highly subjective matter of taste anyway. I like the very low seating position and the ergonomics for driving at the limit in the 911 best, but the crisp R8 bucket seats also have their charm. Important for a visit to the racetrack: all three vehicles offer a driver-oriented cockpit.
Starting signal for the Corvette: Now all that is missing is the right setting for the race track ride. With the six driving programs (Weather, Tour, Sport, Track, MyMode, Z Mode), the choice falls on the Track mode to trim the characteristics of the drive, steering and dampers as sporty as possible. The Corvette Test Guide recommends that ESP be completely disabled in addition to Track Mode.
After just a few turns, it’s clear why Hockenheim doesn’t need the five-stage traction control system called Performance Traction Management (modes: Wet, Dry, Sport 1, Sport 2, Race). Even with the driving aids switched off, the C8 Stingray still has tremendous traction – even in tight corners, which are known to be difficult to negotiate under load (Turn 2 exit, hairpin bend exit, Turn 8 exit). This allows you to step on the gas pedal again very early when accelerating out.
The Corvette also seems to be almost immune to load changes. The change in concept to a mid-engine drive system pays off in this respect from a driving dynamics perspective. Future model variants with higher engine power will certainly also benefit from this traction strength.
Today, the traction of the C8 is almost at Porsche level. The 911 Carrera S pushes itself out of the corners with very impressive mechanical grip. However, the front axles then again fundamentally distinguish Corvette and 911. The C8 Stingray steers precisely with a fresh set of tires and ideal inflation pressures. After a few laps – as soon as the tread temperature has risen – the Corvette front axle then pushes into a mild understeer. As a driver, you now have to pull back a little at the limit in order not to run over the US athlete.
Anyone who deactivates ESP on the racetrack in the R8 should know what they are doing and not just have a little talent at the wheel!
In the 911, the balance between front and rear axle remains neutral for much longer. Even after several laps, the Carrera S still steers with great precision. When the load changes, it almost completely shuts off. And the R8? The rear-wheel drive Audi does not come anywhere near the traction level of Porsche and Corvette. Especially when accelerating out of tight corners, the RWD rear end pushes with present power oversteer, which sometimes kicks in abruptly. This means that the R8 cannot accelerate out of the curve as early as in the 911 and Corvette.
But before accelerating out of the bend, the R8 has to turn into the corner, which is initially precise. Load changes should be avoided as far as possible throughout the entire curve choreography, as the RWD reacts to them extremely poisonously. All in all, the R8 is reminiscent of an old-school mid-engine sports car at the limit. Anyone who deactivates ESP on the race track should know what he is doing and not just have a little talent at the wheel.
Back to the Corvette cockpit: While the C8 storms over the parabolics, we serve up a brief bit of interesting information for future customers in Europe. In contrast to the US versions, not only the Magnetic Ride Adaptive Suspension with adjustable damper characteristics and tighter tuning in Track Mode is part of the standard equipment in this country. The rocking US basic chassis is not officially available from us.
Also standard on the European models: the Z51 Performance Package, which is optional on the US versions. This is included: springs with firmer spring rates, a performance exhaust system, the aero package with front splitter and rear wing, optimized engine cooling with an additional radiator, transmission cooling, larger brake discs and special brake cooling, a shorter axle ratio than on the US base model (5.17 : 1 instead of 4.89 : 1), the electronically controlled differential lock (US basic version with purely mechanical limited slip differential) and last but not least the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires with TPC identification, which were specially developed for the C8.
And how does the C8 work? First of all: The full-load hammering of the 6.2-liter V8 aspirator with 502 hp, internally named LT2, already puts the signature on the sales contract in my mind. In addition to its fascinating sound, the eight-cylinder engine also convinces with its spontaneous throttle response as well as its harmonious and easily drivable power delivery.
Porsche: perfect balance!
The sultry midsummer’s day and the longer gear ratios make the suction V8 of the Corvette noticeably difficult. Not surprisingly, the Vette today reaches 242 km/h, the lowest top speed behind Porsche (248 km/h) and Audi (257 km/h) on the Parabolika.
In a direct comparison with the 540 hp V10 of the R8 and the 450 hp three-litre six-cylinder biturbo of the Carrera S, the Corvette V8 appears subjectively the weakest, although it ranks between the two in terms of performance. One notices how the sultry midsummer’s day gives the vacuum cleaner a hard time. Moreover, the C8 has longer gear ratios than the 911. Not surprisingly, the Vette today reaches 242 km/h, the lowest top speed behind Porsche (248 km/h) and the more powerful Audi (257 km/h) on the Parabolika.
Nevertheless, the engine-transmission combination is convincing. For the first time in Corvette history, the C8 Stingray changes gears using a dual-clutch transmission with eight gears. In contrast to the driving date in February near Las Vegas, in Hockenheim the dual-clutch transmission can be shifted automatically in track mode.
On the twisty US race track in Spring Mountain, the C8 took a little too long to shift down the gears autonomously when braking. Now in Hockenheim, the dual-clutch transmission not only shifts up with pinpoint accuracy, but also beats down the gears perfectly as if by magic during dynamic braking. The shift paddles, which rotate with the driver, have a break today.
As in Formula 1, it helps in sports car construction to copy from the best. In the C8 development phase, the Corvette used a ZF dual-clutch transmission, which is also in use at Porsche, before the later series supplier Tremec was awarded the contract for the C8 transmission.
The Porsche steering system also interprets the subject of precision best of all test candidates. The PDK does its job so purposefully that the paddles are virtually superfluous.
The Porsche PDK was the first double-clutch transmission ever to master this autonomous shifting strategy with such a high degree of perfection that the shift paddles have since been virtually unemployed on the race track in all Porsche models. Even today, the driver can concentrate perfectly on driving in the 911 while the transmission does its job purposefully.
With the R8 V10 RWD dual-clutch transmission, on the other hand, you still have to pull the shift paddles automatically to change gears perfectly at the limit. There’s no question that this is fun – but in the heat of the moment, the ideal shifting moment can be missed by a narrow margin, which ultimately costs valuable time on the fast lap.
R8: everyday life top, race track wild
Back into the Corvette, braking on the hairpin bend. As with Porsche in the 992, the C8 now uses an electromechanical brake booster, while the Audi – oldschool but effective – uses a conventional system. And what is the pedal feel in the C8 now when braking at the limit? The brake is easy to control, and the pedal feedback does not feel artificial. Thanks to the so-called eBoost brake, the pedal feedback can be varied in three stages (Tour, Sport, Track). Today, however, the fastest lap time is what counts, which is why we only ride in track mode.
In direct comparison, the 992 has the shortest pedal travel, and the brake responds even more poisonously than on Corvette and R8. The Audi has the longest pedal travel. The R8 brake remains stable both on the track and during the later brake measurement. The fact that a conventional braking system is still used in the R8 is noticeable when ABS is applied. Then there is a clearly pulsating feedback in the pedal. In the 911 and Corvette, you no longer feel this in the pedal due to the concept, but this is not a disadvantage.
The steering forces in track mode are no longer as stiff as on the C7. The ABS tuning prevented better braking values due to its rough regulation, although the stable brake system could certainly do more.
Which ABS works well and who still has potential for optimization is immediately noticeable, regardless of the pedal feel. When it comes to ABS control technology, Porsche is clearly leading the way. It is followed with a respectful distance by Audi. Today, the Corvette is at the back when it comes to ABS. In the braking zones on Turn 2, on the hairpin bend or before Turn 8, the C8 with the coarsest ABS control interventions stands out. The Vette therefore does not like very late braking points. In other words: With the 911 Carrera S, you can brake into the curve much later – almost a bit like a racing car.
With the R8 V10 RWD, it is better to have completed the braking phase before the corner, as is the case in the schoolbook. This is not because the ABS has a rough control in the limit range, but because the R8 does not like it at all when you brake into a corner with it, due to its suspension tuning. Turning into the corner with the tail lightened? Not a good idea, because the R8 will then want to turn into the bend.
Top in everyday life, wild on the race track – the R8 V10 RWD shows two faces. Actually completely incomprehensible, since the RWD test car is equipped with the optionally available parts from the “Audi Sport Performance Parts” accessory program. In addition to the three-way coilover suspension, the RWD carries the optional sports brake pads as well as Audi Sport wheels with Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires including “AO” identification.
“AO” equals “Audi Original” – the compound behind this tire is by no means an aggressive Cup 2 compound, but rather moves in terms of grip even below Porsche’s Pirelli P Zero NA1 and only just above Corvette’s Michelin Pilot Sport 4S. By the way: We didn’t know in advance that Audi equipped RWD with Performance Parts. For comparability purposes, it would certainly have been better to experience the R8 on production tires. But Audi can’t help the fact that Porsche doesn’t offer cup tires for the Carrera S and that there are no option tires for the C8 (yet).
Porsche 911 Carrera S: Porsche has done its homework so well in development that the 911 does not need cup tires or electric blankets!
Equalizing justice: The Corvette competed with two sets of tires. For the lap time, the C8 test support team conjured up flame-new tires, which were warmed up in advance with electric blankets. No, if anyone can complain, it’s the Porsche, but it did its homework so well in development that it doesn’t need cup tires or electric blankets.
But where did the Corvette fail to make it to the last place in the comparative test? The C8 left a lot of points behind, especially in the brake measurement. The brake system itself is very stable both on the race track and in classic deceleration measurement – but the sticking point is the ABS tuning, which ensures below-average deceleration values, especially in standard brake measurement. This is where there is potential for optimization.
From a lateral dynamics perspective, the Corvette is nevertheless the surprise of the test. Its lap time is only just behind that of the cup-tired and more powerful Audi. At 1m 54.6s, the C8 also beats the C7 Grand Sport with Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires, which set a time of 1m 55.3s in similarly hot temperatures.
And: Compare the cornering speeds of 911 and C8 Stingray. In the slow and medium-fast corners, the Corvette sometimes chases around corners faster than the 911. Thanks to its mechanical grip level and good driving stability, the Vette also keeps up with Porsche’s cornering speed in the fast corners, such as the right-hand bend in front of the Mercedes Arena. Well done, and all this at an absolute bargain price of only 99,000 Euros!
Since Porsche 911 Carrera S and Audi R8 V10 RWD delivered the expected performance, the conclusion revolves only around the US sports car offspring. Even though the Corvette scored lower in the comparative test, the new mid-engine concept is particularly convincing from a lateral dynamics perspective. The mechanical grip level and driving stability of the C8 Stingray are remarkable. There is potential for optimization in the ABS tuning, which has prevented better braking values due to its coarse control, although the stable braking system could certainly do more.